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I know that the first few posts are out of order. On the first page of my website I asked for kindness and understanding because I was still learning. This is one of the things I was talking about.
January 25, 2022
Why I wrote the book in the first place
For many years, I traded stories with friends and colleagues at dinner parties, at the pub, and at staff meetings. “What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you in your career?” “What’s the best thing that happened to you this month?” “What’s the funniest thing that’s happened?” That kind of thing.
Good times. Good laughs.
No one ever asked, “What’s the most depressing thing that ever happened?” “What’s the worst thing that happened to you this year?” Those things happened, and, if pressed, I could trade a few of those stories as well. Teaching certainly isn’t all fun and games. As a principal, I saw more than my fair share of bad things. But I don’t dwell on them, and not much would be gained by telling those stories over a glass of wine and a fine dinner.
Near the end of my career I got the idea of spending a good portion of the final staff meeting each year by trading “Best stories of the Year.” I forced everyone to say something positive - funny - at our last meeting. If someone was stuck, I let them pass, but I always came back to them, and teachers knew I wasn’t going to let them off the hook.
And everyone did. The vast majority were eager to tell their story. The kid who finally got it, whatever it was. A memory from Buddy Week. The supportive phone call from a parent. The school team winning a game against the arch rival. I don’t remember what all else. I don’t remember very many of their answers specifically.
But I remember the feelings I had as teachers told their stories. I remember the laughter. I remember being thanked - and thanked a lot - after each of these meetings.
It was a fine way to end a year. Maybe one of the best ways.
So, back when covid started, and the world was held in thrall by all things Donald Trump, I found myself becoming a very angry and frustrated man. I shouted at the television. I shouted at my smart phone. I shook my fist at the world.
This wasn’t normal for me. Although I used to have quite a temper, I learned to keep it in check a long, long time ago. I’m known for my patience. Almost without exception, if kids heard me ranting in the hallways it was either a performance or a joke. I don’t remember, ever, losing my temper with a teacher. But now I was retired and I was shouting at the world.
And it wasn’t an act. I was angry. And frustrated. And like most people, a little bit scared.
So one day I sat down at my computer, and rather than yell at it, I looked through an old file I’d saved. “Barebones Incidents” it’s called. Hundreds of two or three sentence reminders of things that happened to me during my career. Things that usually made me laugh. And as I read them again, I laughed again.
I began to write some of them into short stories, and, as I finished each of them, I’d send them off to a small group of friends and family members. Their comments were all positive and said, basically, “Keep going, these are good!”
I did. I wrote about fifty of them, and forty of them made it into The Principal Chronicles.